The Periclean Progress E-Newsletter
Volume 7, Issue 1 – October 2010
The Periclean Progress is a publication of Project Pericles, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that encourages and facilitates commitments by colleges and universities to include education for social responsibility and participatory citizenship as an essential part of their educational programs, in the classroom, on the campus, and in the community.
· National Office Announcements
Project Pericles Launches Signature Periclean Faculty Leadership Program: In April, Project Pericles selected the first cohort of 26 faculty from 26 Periclean campuses to serve as the Periclean Faculty Leader on each campus. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the Periclean Faculty Leaders are creating and teaching courses in a wide variety of disciplines in the fine arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that address issues of social concern, enrich curriculum, and enhance student social interest and involvement. They are also organizing campus-wide civic engagement activities and/or preparing an academic paper or project. In addition, each Periclean Faculty Leader partners with a Periclean Faculty Leader at another campus. The partners consult with each other throughout the program. We thank The Teagle Foundation and the Eugene M. Lang Foundation for supporting this new signature Periclean program. Click here to view the complete list of 2010 Periclean Faculty Leaders and their courses.
The Project Pericles website contains syllabi for courses being taught this fall and from other civic engagement courses including the 44 Civic Engagement Courses (CECs) that were taught at 16 Periclean colleges and universities from 2007-2009. The CEC program received generous support from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, The Teagle Foundation, and the Eugene M. Lang Foundation.
Each issue of the 2010-2011 Periclean Progress will feature an article written by a Periclean Faculty Leader. In this issue, Ben Berger, Associate Professor of Political Science and the Periclean Faculty Leader at Swarthmore College, discusses his course "Democratic Theory and Practice."
Periclean Faculty Leader, Swarthmore College
"Democratic Theory and Practice"
"College courses are usually works in progress. Each of my courses has changed over time; syllabi, lecture content, discussion style and assignments continuously evolve. But none has transformed more than "Democratic Theory and Practice," my Periclean Faculty course. And none has taught me as much about the challenges and rewards of tying traditional academic learning to real-life politics and local community engagement.
"Democratic Theory and Practice" pursues three lines of questioning. First, what is democracy, and why is it desirable? Second, what conditions does democracy require? Third, does the contemporary U.S. fall short of these requirements (and if so, what might be done)? In search of answers students read historical and theoretical accounts of democracy dating back to ancient Greece, as well as social science analyses of the present-day US. In other words, they read texts that question what democracy should entail and what American democracy actually comprises. They also read contemporary research on innovations that might improve democracy from the ground up. But those readings only fulfill part of our academic goals.
Normative theories of democracy usually deal with abstract, general ideas and ideals. Empirical accounts of US democracy get more specific, but they still tend to operate at a level far removed from students' everyday experience. Community-based learning gives our lessons immediacy, reality and heft. It took me several years of striving to locate appropriate community partners, and several years more to solidify our relationships (which has actually been an ongoing process rather than a one-time achievement). Fortunately, Swarthmore encouraged me to keep experimenting and trying different approaches. That investment of time and patience has paid ample dividends.
Before I could move toward the right kind of community partners, I had to find an appropriate community in which to situate our learning. Initially, I tried utilizing the entire Greater Philadelphia area, placing students with widely dispersed civil and political associations so that each student could find the best fit for his or her interests. But that approach failed to provide a unifying sense of narrative and purpose. Gradually, I refocused my efforts closer to home so that students might experience the complex fabric of democratic society in their own neighborhood.
Two narratives emerged: democracy at the county level and a tale of two cities.
Swarthmore College resides in suburban Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which for one hundred years was run by the kind of political machine normally associated with giant urban centers. Thus, for many decades residents of Delaware County effectively lived under one-party rule. (The machine's Republican affiliation was essentially non-ideological in the same sense as the Chicago machine's Democratic affiliation under the first Mayor Daley.) In recent years, the machine's control has lessened considerably but has not disappeared. Last year, I was fortunate to discover John Morrison McLarnon's book Ruling Suburbia, which chronicles a century under the Delaware County machine. My students read several chapters throughout the semester, and some of them work on local political campaigns (choosing their own candidates and party affiliation). Talking with Delaware County residents and working with local party organizations helps students to understand how government works at the county level and to personalize McLarnon's historical chronicle.
Machine politics can produce high voter turnout and reasonably responsive government, but at the cost of accountability and dissent. Are machine politics less or more democratic than competitive systems plagued by citizen apathy? This year, part of my Periclean Faculty Leader funds will go toward bringing John McLarnon to Swarthmore from Millersville University, where he teaches, for a community-wide political discussion about the nature of political machines and the prospects for competitive democracy in our county.
Within Delaware County, students experience a tale of two cities: the geographically proximate yet radically different communities of Swarthmore and Chester, PA. We read ample social science scholarship that claims a close correlation between socio-economic and educational resources, on one hand, and "social capital," political engagement, and political efficacy on the other. Swarthmore and Chester bring those statistics to life. The two communities occupy opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum and allow us to see, without the mediation of textbooks, how different kinds of environmental factors (income and wealth, educational resources, race and class, and the extent of a community's social connectedness, for example) can affect citizens' experience of democracy. My students and I visit Swarthmore's and Chester's city council meetings, talk with each mayor, meet with activists from each locality, and learn about their respective histories. Students who are not working at the county level may choose to intern with local government officials, work for city-specific political campaigns, or work with local activists who aspire to improve social and political conditions. Our aim is not simply to do things for other citizens but to do things with them, and in the process to learn about the ways in which citizens in different areas, from different backgrounds, think and talk about the experience of democracy. With the help of fellow citizens we look for ways in which the democratic process works and also ways in which it fails, not in order to condemn the "system" outright (although students are free to arrive at such a criticism) but to explore the means of making democracy work better.
During this course's multi-year evolution my single most important lesson has been to seek out help from those best equipped to give it. Joy Charlton, Executive Director of Swarthmore's Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, has been a consistent source of resources and support. Cynthia Jetter, also of the Lang Center, has been an invaluable liaison with Chester community leaders and organizations. Dr. Dwayne Belgrave, a local clergyman and activist, has become both an academic collaborator and friend. These guides and others have helped me to develop a community-based learning component that complements our academic reading rather than standing aside as a separate activity. They have helped me to find community engagements that allow students to work alongside local residents in pursuit of goals that the residents have set. And they have helped me and my students to experience democracy - warts and all - not only in theory but in practice."
Project Pericles thanks Ben Berger for this article and will update you on the innovative activities of the other 25 Periclean Leaders in upcoming issues of The Periclean Progress.
Debating for Democracy (D4D)™ Brings Advocacy Training to 11 Periclean Campuses: Project Pericles is holding "D4D on the Road" training workshops at 11 Periclean colleges and universities during the 2010-2011 academic year. Each workshop gives attendees the tools and encouragement to mobilize support, persuasively communicate, and motivate people to act. The workshops are led by Mandara Meyers from The Center for Progressive Leadership (CPL), a national nonpartisan political training institute based in Washington, D.C. that has trained over 5,000 diverse leaders at every level of political involvement. Mandara is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
The workshops are open to Periclean students, administrators, faculty, alumni, and community members. Click here for workshop locations and registration information.
The first workshop of the academic year was held at Ursinus College on September 24. Allison Cavanaugh, a student at Ursinus College, wrote a story about the workshop that appeared on the Ursinus website. The story is below.
Attendees at Ursinus College "D4D on the Road" Workshop"Project Pericles hosted a six-hour 'D4D on the Road' workshop September 24 in the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art to give students the tools to initiate change and to motivate them to pursue their political goals. It teaches students to apply values to the discussions fostered by democracy.
Ursinus' community service organization, UCare, organized the event. Professor Christian Rice, director of the Bonner Leader and Project Pericles programs, commented on what the conference was able to present to students, "D4D at Ursinus was a great opportunity for our students to learn the tools and skills necessary to engage the political process and effect change on an issue they care about. I was also pleased that students from Widener University, a fellow Periclean institution, participated in the workshop." The event united students who were interested in being active and influential members of society.
During the workshop, students were encouraged to consider morals and methods associated with lobbying, organizing, and campaigning. Students shared their own ideas about important ethics in a society and ways that they could start making a difference. They discussed values and how they unite us as individuals despite differing political views. They participated in a mock debate and voting session concerning a bill that had recently been presented to the Senate. This gave them the chance to not only learn about persuasive communication, but to start putting it into practice as well.
The conference seemed to encourage and impact the students who attended. Kristin Daly-Barnes, an Ursinusstudent, saw the workshop as motivational and informative, 'The most noteworthy lesson I took from D4D is that we students have the power to effect change in society - be it through community service, voting, writing to local representatives, or spreading awareness about important societal issues. What's more is that with this knowledge of our ability comes a responsibility to act upon it. The Ursinus community is filled with intelligent, forward-thinking leaders, and we cannot take the opportunities we have both been bestowed and earned for granted. Participants were clearly able to recognize the tools that the workshop taught as applicable to life as citizens.'"
This article appears courtesy of Ursinus College and has been excerpted.
New Program Associate at Project Pericles: Katherine Cross joined Project Pericles as the new Program Associate in August. Katherine recently graduated from Drew University with a BA in English. Please join us in welcoming Katherine to Project Pericles.
· Campus News
Former President of Ursinus College Passes Away: John Strassburger, the President Emeritus of Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA., who served as president for more than 15 years, died September 22. Dr. Strassburger was inaugurated as the 12th president of Ursinus College in January 1995, and retired this past June citing health reasons. A memorial service was held at Ursinus College on September 26. Stewart C. Goetz, professor of philosophy at the college, gave the eulogy, concluding, "Let us all be comforted by a time when John Strassburger encouraged us to have a better vision of ourselves." Dr. Strassburger was the President of Ursinus College when it became a founding member of Project Pericles. We will miss his advice and counsel.
Allegheny College CPP Registers Voters, Continues to Examine Civility: Midterm elections notoriously draw less interest among voters, so the Center for Political Participation (CPP) at Allegheny College - along with College Democrats and College Republicans- got out there and encouraged people to register and vote. Student fellows of the CPP conducted voter registration drives. They registered 48 students, 18 of whom applied for absentee ballots. Also, senior fellow Megan McNallyand CPP Program Coordinator Mary Solberg visited the Crawford County READ Program in downtown Meadville October 4 to discuss the importance of voting. Five students and teachers registered to vote. College Democrats and College Republicans at Allegheny joined forces and did some old-fashioned tabling and dorm-storming in October. College Dems hosted a barbeque, featuring Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania's 3rd Legislative District. Together, the College Democrats and Republicans registered over 125 students to vote.
Allegheny Poll on Political Discourse: A new survey commissioned by Allegheny College in partnership with Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) found that a solid majority of Americans, 58 percent, believe the tone of political discourse has become worse since Barack Obama was elected president. Additionally, the fall poll of 1,242 randomly selected registered voters (contacted by SurveyUSA) found that 41 percent of Americans believe the tone of campaigns this year is worse than in previous elections. Only 9 percent believe that campaigns are more positive than in the past, and 49 percent said things are about the same."Many of us assumed that the tone of politics would improve after the drama over the health care debate died down, but most Americans don't see it that way," said Daniel M. Shea, director of the Center for Political Participation and co-author of the survey.
New England College Hosts Congressional Debate: The Center for Civic Engagement at New England College hosted a debate for the 2010 general elections for Congress in the first district. The debate between Democrat Carol Shea Porter and Republican Frank Guinta was held on October 19. New England College partnered with the Concord Monitor, New Hampshire Business Review, WMUR.com, and WGIR radio to sponsor the debate.
Pericleans Appear on Washington Monthly List of Best Colleges and Universities: This fall, Washington Monthly ranked the top universities and liberal arts colleges based on their public good in three categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country). Periclean universities that were ranked in the top 100 on the university list were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Widener University. Periclean liberal arts colleges that were ranked in the top 100 on the liberal arts colleges list were Allegheny College, Bates College, Berea College, Carleton College, Dillard University, Drew University, Earlham College, Macalester College, Morehouse College, Occidental College, Pitzer College, Rhodes College, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Spelman College, Swarthmore College, and The College of Wooster. Morehouse College was ranked as the top liberal arts college in the United States according to the Washington Monthly. A link to the entire story is available here.
· Project Pericles Meetings and Workshops
Project Pericles Program Directors' Meeting
November 15 and 16
Elon, North Carolina
This conference is an opportunity for Periclean schools to share information about program development and activities, network with fellow Pericleans, discuss current and future opportunities for collaborations, and inject new insights and ideas for future initiatives. Project Pericles thanks Elon University for hosting this meeting.
Project Pericles Presidents' Council Meeting
December 2, 2010
New York, New York
At this annual meeting, Periclean Presidents will share their perspectives on the development, implementation, and support of Project Pericles on their campuses. Project Pericles thanks The Henry Luce Foundation for hosting this meeting.
Debating for Democracy National Conference
March 24-26, 2011
New York, New York
The Debating for Democracy National Conference will bring together student representatives from Periclean campuses to participate in a series of educational activities with leading figures in civic engagement Project Pericles thanks Pace University for hosting this conference.
2010-2011 D4D on the Road Workshops
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Berea College, Berea, KY
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
Saturday, December 4, 2010
St. Mary's College of Maryland, St. Mary's City, MD
Friday, January 14, 2011
Bethune Cookman University, Daytona Beach, FL
(with Spelman College and Morehouse College)
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Bates College, Lewiston, ME
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Carleton College, Northfield, MN
(with Macalester College)
Friday, February 11, 2011
Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
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Periclean Colleges & Universities
Allegheny College • Bates College • Berea College • Bethune-Cookman University • Carleton College • Chatham University • Dillard University • Drew University • Earlham College • Elon University • Goucher College • Hampshire College • Hendrix College • Macalester College • Morehouse College • New England College • The New School • Occidental College • Pace University • Pitzer College • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute • Rhodes College • St. Mary's College of Maryland • Spelman College • Swarthmore College • Ursinus College • Wagner College • Widener University • The College of Wooster
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